Fearing Another BRAC Attack

Air crews from Hurlburt Field, Fla., secure their aircraft at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M. Oct. 3, 2013. Air frames from the 1st Special Operations wing were relocated to Cannon in an effort to protect government assets in the wake of Tropical Storm Karen. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Staff Sgt. Matthew Plew)

New Mexico’s heavy — and unsustainable — reliance on federal largesse was well illustrated by Curry County Commissioner Tim Ashley’s recent trip to D.C. for “At a Crossroads: The Future of Defense Communities and Installations.”

The three-day conference was sponsored by the Association of Defense Communities, a taxpayer-subsidized organization that “unites the diverse interests of communities, state governments, the private sector and the military on issues of base closure and realignment, community-military partnerships, defense real estate, mission growth, mission sustainment, military privatization, military families/veteran support and base redevelopment.”

Before leaving for Washington, Ashley told the Clovis News Journal that the association was “instrumental” in helping Cannon Air Force Base escape the last round of the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process. The Pentagon wants another dose of BRAC, but eternally vigilant about preserving their fiefdoms, politicians in the Senate and House of Representatives have been able to block the proposal.

As government expenses go, Ashley’s trip wasn’t large. It cost taxpayers $2,673.03 in total, including $1,127 for airfare and $1,325.91 for three nights of lodging. But it did reveal that a reflexive desire to preserve — if not expand — federal facilities continues to infect New Mexico’s elected officials.

Fighting the military’s desire to unload surplus and/or duplicative installations is useful for securing votes and boosting the image of economic-development bureaucracies. But it’s a disappointing distraction from the need to pursue policies that foster a vibrant, growing private sector in the Land of Enchantment.